The making of the ultimate ghost story
It happened at night. It always happened at night.
I heard a soft voice whisper my name. It was a female voice. I don’t know how I knew that, I just knew. My eyes opened sleepily and I expected to see my mother, but she was not there. I looked around the shadows dancing on the walls in my bedroom. Through the darkness I could see my Grease poster and Charlie’s Angels dolls spotlighted by a dim streetlight shining in through my open window. My sheer pink drapes blew out gently. It was a warm summer night, but something didn’t feel right.
After a few minutes I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep. Then…I felt an icy goodnight kiss placed upon my cheek.
I shot up in bed. The room was now freezing cold and I saw the shadowy form of a woman standing, or shall I say hovering above my bed. I stared at her translucent face and then let out a shriek. Within seconds my lights turned on and my parents were in my room asking what had happened. I told them through horrified sobs. They sat on my bed comforting me, explaining that there was nothing in my room, it was just my imagination.
I saw the woman several more times throughout my childhood; usually she would just be standing in the corner of my room like she was watching over me. Yet, I can’t say she was a comforting presence - I was completely terrified. When I would see her I would flee from my room in the middle of the night, crawl through the darkness into my older sister’s room and sleep on the floor next to her bed. I would then high-tail it out of her room in the early morning hours before she ever realized I had been there. As I grew older the ghostly woman’s visits became less and less frequent until they stopped completely. And though I never forgot what had happened, life went on and she faded to a distant memory.
When I was a teenager my family moved from New York to Atlanta, Georgia. I was a typical teen, very into music and movies and just trying to get through high school. It was in our new house while preparing for bed one night that I looked up and saw a Civil War soldier standing behind me in the reflection of the bathroom mirror. He was stone faced and weary looking with a scruff of a beard. A musket with a bayonet leaned upon his right shoulder. He looked rather solid, yet when I quickly turned around he dissipated into thin air. Seeing the soldier brought back all those old memories from childhood. A few months later my grandmother who was visiting from New York awoke one night seeing the apparition of an Indian standing at the foot of her bed. Also, the lights in our new house seemed to have a mind of their own. They would turn off and on, usually when one was in the shower, much to the chagrin of my mother who would firmly call out, “Leave the lights alone!” The lights would then generally behave…temporarily. There were plaques all over the very fertile southern land surrounding the house stating the different Civil War battles that had been fought there. The entire area was haunted where so much death had occurred.
From that time on I was completely hooked on anything paranormal. I devoured every book and movie I could find. I fell in love with Anne Rice and her vampires. Stephen King and his troubled writer put in precarious situations by his “biggest fan”. I especially loved his blood-soaked teenage girl, who turned out to be quite an interesting prom date. I loved Edgar’s prose, and Mr. Dickens’ wealthy spinster, Ms. Havisham.
I have to admit I am a big chicken, but the thought of a ghost simply fascinated me. My friends and I would relish chatting with the dearly departed through a glow-in the-dark Ouija board. When asked where I wanted to have my fourteenth birthday, I chose Anthony’s, a reputed haunted Atlanta restaurant. I excitedly walked around the House of Seven Gables, and through the graveyards of Salem, Massachusetts. The dance club my friends and I would hang out at was called the Masquerade, an enormous old mill that had seen its share of death and was said to be overrun with spooks and vampires.
After high school my sister got me a job working at a psychiatric hospital located in an old southern mansion. I really wasn’t prepared to stand witness to some of things I did. It was a locked psychiatric intensive care unit for really disturbed people. Almost daily someone tried to kill themselves; one man got a hold of rubbing alcohol and set himself on fire, and a young woman slashed her wrists with a piece of glass. I was young and seeing the human condition in such a raw way was very frightening, though the experience has become invaluable in my writing.
Sadly my band disbanded and I decided to move to Los Angeles in my early twenties to study film production and screenwriting at UCLA. My first job in California was at Paramount Pictures. I started giving tours of the studio to starry-eyed tourists and then worked as a production assistant on various movies and television shows. Paramount is the oldest studio still left in Hollywood and I can tell you from personal experience, it is very haunted.
Late one evening after the days rehearsals were complete, I had to go back into stage 19 to grab call sheets for the next days shooting for the television show I was working on called WINGS. The stage doors were locked, and weenie that I am, I had my friend, a security guard, open the doors and turn on the massive overhead lights. We chatted. Happy our long day was coming to an end. He escorted me down to the set which used to be the stage HAPPY DAYS was filmed on. The soundstage was said to be haunted by Heather O’Rourke, the little girl who played Carol Anne in Poltergeist, and had been on Happy Days during its final season. She died at a very early age and it was said her spirit liked to run across the catwalks high in the rafters above the stage. I don’t know how true all that was, studio folklore I suppose. But as soon as I picked up the papers and said, “Here they are!” all the lights went off leaving us in inky blackness. Thankfully my friend had a flashlight and we were able to find our way back through the darkness. As we were walking out the door I could have sworn I heard the creaking of wood in the rafters above and a soft echoing giggle.
The experience really scared me, but it wasn’t until we were back outside that I realized just how frightened my big burly security guard friend was. He was literally shaking with tears falling from his eyes.
The back of the Paramount lot is attached to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where I spent a lot of time dining with the dead. Just to get away for a break, I would have some of my meals in the cemetery while prowling the graves of Hollywood legends. One early morning before work, as I was walking alone into the enormous marble mausoleum where Rudolph Valentino rests, I was urged to “GET OUT!” by a very loud, very angry disembodied voice that echoed through the crypts and hallways. That was the fastest I have ever run.
The following spring I awoke in the middle of the night to find my friend sitting at the end of my bed wearing his hippy Halloween costume and strumming his guitar. He glanced over at me and smiled. I smiled at him and fell back to sleep, believing it was just a nice dream. The next day I went to work as usual, but when I came home one of my roommates was hysterical, crying that Noel had killed himself the previous day and his body had just been discovered. I was stunned and immediately remembered how he had visited me the previous night. I believe my friend came to my room that night, not just to say goodbye, but because it was a place he remembered having such a wonderful happy time. The vision of my friend and his lovely smile will stay with me always.
It was at this time I had my first experience with something known as the “Choking Ghost”. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I was not alone. I was lying on my back in the darkness when I heard what sounded like several angry voices yelling and laughing at me. They felt so close I could feel the coolness of their breath. When I tried to sit up it felt like I was being forcibly held down. I could not scream, and worse, I could not seem to breathe. I was powerless and terrified. Completely aware of what was happening to me, yet unable to help myself. After what seemed like an eternity my body was released. I have had the same experience perhaps two or three other times, and it only happens when I sleep on my back. It is a truly terrifying feeling and I can assure you I do not sleep on my back…EVER.
As I made my way through life I seemed to have made acquaintances with other people who also had a fascination with the supernatural. My friends and I would infiltrate and ghost hunt every known haunt and graveyard in Hollywood and beyond; the Roosevelt and Knickerbocker Hotels, Tarzan’s abandoned mansion, the Winchester Mystery House, the Queen Mary, Alcatraz, the Vogue Theatre, the Polanski/Tate house on Cielo Drive, the Whaley mansion…and my absolute favorite spookpalace – the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Anywhere ghosts were said to be present, I would find myself drawn to.
In the middle of the night we would hear what sounded like doors slamming shut. But when Douglas would go investigate what had made the noise, he would see that all the doors were closed and locked. Then one night while my sister was visiting and we were all sitting in the living room watching a movie, her eyes suddenly widened and she flew out of the chair she was sitting in and jumped in between Douglas and I, who were sitting on the couch. She told us that someone had been softly petting her head. She slept that night with the light on and refused to let us shut the door to her room.
In speaking with the owner of the house, an older woman I had been friendly with, we quickly found out the house was still inhabited by its long-dead owner, the woman’s father who had had a heart attack and died in the house. His name was Sam and he had no intention of leaving his house; we treated him with respect and he treated us with respect.
That was it – the light bulb moment. I decided to heed the old adage, “write what you know”. All the eerie experiences that I had since I was a little girl came rushing back to me. I got up in the middle of the night and began writing. And always loving a good ghost story, I came up with the idea for the supernatural tale, Haunted Lily – the Nightmare Ball, my debut novel.
I like to think that there is a little bit of my aura in Lily, though I do not believe I have psychic abilities. I think for the most part I am just a receptive person and have been in the right place at the right time. I think in some way we all have the ability to see through the veil separating the living and the dead; it’s just to what degree. I went from a little girl scared of her own shadow, to a person who has wholly embraced the darker side of life…and death. I think it is so important to really live and take chances. Something can be learned from everyone you meet, good or bad.
Since writing Haunted Lily I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world. I found that everyone has a ghost story. Everyone has experienced that uneasy feeling while they’re alone, the feeling that they’re…not alone. I set out to write the ultimate ghost story, reflecting experiences I have had that were undeniably frightening and completely thrilling.
I hope you have a chance to visit Lily’s haunted world.
For more information – please visit my website – SPOOKPALACE.COM
Haunted Lily – The Nightmare Ball
Book One of the Ghost Memoirs
Reality is shattered for British filmmaker, Darby McGregor, when his beautiful fiancée is tragically killed on their wedding day. After a dark time of mourning Darby is tormented by a horrifying phantom bride in the eighteenth-century church he recently renovated. Is this the spirit of his beloved fiancée or something more sinister?
Darby’s sanity is in question when fate steps in.
Her name is Lily, an enchanted young woman who vibrantly shines through the darkness like a beacon of light for lost souls. Lily has been surrounded by the dearly departed since she was born and has the gift/curse to penetrate the shadowy veil separating the living and the dead. Feeling an immediate connection Lily agrees to be the subject of Darby’s new documentary. However, Darby and his unsuspecting crew are not prepared for this chilling journey through the spirit world.
As they spend time together their bond grows. And when Darby learns of Lily’s tragic upbringing and dealings with dangerous apparitions; he wants nothing more than to protect her. But it turns out he is the one needing protection when Lily’s frightening childhood nemesis returns from the afterworld to claim her.
Ghosts, thrills, and chills drive the story in HAUNTED LILY, a tale sure to scare.
Sidney will giveaway a signed copy of Haunted Lily to one lucky reader.
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